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Children, Schools and Families Bill could be made law by Monday

Date:7 APR 2010

The Children, Schools and Families Bill has been caught up in the rush to push through legislation before Parliament is dissolved on Monday for the general election.

Today will see the conclusion of the of the Bill in the House of Lords and the Commons will consider any amendments tomorrow after which it may be sent for Royal Assent.

Under the Bill, the Government wants to expand earlier reforms that grant media access to family courts to allow journalists to view documents filed in family proceedings.

The reforms are opposed by many family lawyers due to concerns about the diminished protection provided to the welfare and privacy of the child, the undermining of key ethical principles underscoring the work of professionals such as doctors and social workers, and the delay and cost which the system would have to bear. The House of Commons own committee on human rights questioned whether the measures conflict with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

When the Commons debated the Bill in February the Government agreed to a new clause that requires a full independent review to media access in the family courts.

As a result of the accepted amendments, before Schedule 2 of the Bill may be brought into effect, there must be a full independent review to the outcome of granting media access to the family courts last April. The conclusions of the review must then be set out in a report laid before Parliament.

In addition, before the independent review of media access can commence, a full review has to be completed of the findings from the pilot allowing for the publication of anonymised judgments.